In recent years the Dodge Charger has made - or remade - quite a name for itself among car enthusiasts, thanks to its aggressive good looks, muscular engine and affordable price tag. One of the most iconic cars from one of the most iconic American carmakers celebrates its 50 years of existence this year, so the time is right to take a look back at the long and sometimes bumpy history of this most American of cars.
The mid-1960s was a trying period for carmakers, who were working furiously to keep up with rapidly changing times, tastes and consumer demographics. The Chrysler Corporation was down in the trenches in the battle to conquer the youth market, and had reason to feel good about the prospects for its brand-new Plymouth Barracuda muscle car. Two weeks after its launch Ford released the Mustang, which went on to set sales records and leave the Barracuda in its dust.
Birth of the Charger
It was in the aftermath of this defeat that the carmaker launched a fastback version of its Coronet car; the 1966 Dodge Chargerdebuted in the fall of 1965. It differed from the Coronet only in its two-door fastback roof and some trim elements. Longer and heavier than the Mustang, it had yet to develop its full muscularity, as it inherited the Coronet's staid suspension and powertrain.
1968: The Charger Gets Beautiful
A redesign after two production years made the Charger into the muscular beauty that has become so well-known and appreciated around the world. Muscular fenders combined with a unique front grille and a new square-cut hardtop roof to give it a distinctive, performance-minded look. Sales jumped.
Generation Three Born in 1971
Featuring a more prominently coke bottle-shaped body and a front grille split into halves and framed by chrome elements, theDodge Charger grew steadily in popularity over the next few years, but when sales slumped in 1974, another redesign was in the works. Changes were evolutionary more than they were revolutionary during this period, and it wasn't until the dawn of the 80s that the Charger underwent a radical change.
The Charger Becomes a 3-Door Hatchback Coupe
The Dodge Charger unveiled in 1979 used the same front-drive platform as the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon - not exactly racing-inspired DNA. Chrysler brought in a larger, more powerful engine for 1982, and the introduction of a Shelby version further helped improve performance capabilities, but sales continued to languish. 1987 would prove to be last production year for this iteration of the Dodge Charger, and once gone it stayed gone for 19 years.
2006: The Charger Returns
Chrysler re-introduced the Dodge Charger in 2006 as a four-door muscle car with rear-wheel drive. The car received kudos for more-than-capable performance and handling. The following years would see the car gain a new 4-speed automatic transmission, a 4-wheel drive option, an upgrade cabin, and a power upgrade that brought the engine output up to 368 HP.
Today, the Dodge Charger is a healthy cornerstone of the Dodge lineup, a performance-minded four-door car with a price tag that puts it in reach for consumers on a budget.